Sunday Sermon – Pr. David

20150413_104923ALL SAINTS SUNDAY

Year B

November 1, 2015

John 1:1-45

Philippians 3:13-14

Pastor David Tryggestad

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church

Virginia, Minnesota

“Lazarus, come out!”

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

Two commands of our Lord. The first is to each and every one of us personally, as Jesus inserts our own name: “Lazarus, come out! Mary, come out! John, come out! Sally, come out!” “Come out into the fullness of life I have intended for you.”

The second is to us as a Christian community: “Unbind him, and let him go.” “Unwrap the bonds that bind them. Remove the shroud that enfolds them. Shed light into the darkness that overwhelms them. Loose the chains of oppression that ensnare them. Remove the barriers that bar them. Sever the cords of addiction that grip them. Break the cycle of violence that curses them. Give voice to the fear that silences them.” “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Twelve candles burn on the altar this morning, one for each person whose funeral or memorial service was held through Our Savior’s in the past year. Each light represents a life—and not only one life, but the many lives of the many, many people who loved or who were loved by these twelve people. Each and every one of these beloved ones in whose memories these candles burn heard Jesus call them, in many and various ways throughout their lives, especially during their times of difficulty and doubt, “Lazarus, come out!” “Come out into the light of my love. Come out into the abundant life I offer you. Come out of the blight of sadness into the fullness of joy.”

And in each and every case, these beloved ones in whose memories these candles burn experienced being unbound by you, through worship in this sacred space, through the many and various ministries of this congregation, or through agencies of the larger church. Through you, these people experienced being unbound. “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Today we make commitments that will ensure that these various ministries of unbinding will continue into the future, to ensure that Our Savior’s will continue to be a healthy community of hospitality and healing, of teaching and learning, and of service to the world.

Our stewardship theme this year is, “Looking Forward with Willing Hearts.” The Scripture verse that informs our theme is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

I was excited when I first learned that this was our stewardship verse. It was my grandfather’s favorite verse. Some of my favorite memories as a young child were sitting between my grandparents in worship in the little country church in Wisconsin, hearing the sweet soprano of my grandmother and the strong baritone of my grandfather, singing hymns of faith. I remember how my grandmother comforted me, reminding me of Jesus, as I wept over the death of two little kittens I was trying to keep alive after they were abandoned by their mother. I remember the stories of how that little congregation in the country surrounded and supported my grandparents when their barn burned down early on Christmas morning, killing all the livestock inside—and they went to church to worship! “O Come, All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant!”

And I remember how it was I came to learn of my grandfather’s favorite Bible verse, our stewardship verse. I had the privilege to preach for my grandfather’s funeral, and my uncle, his oldest son, told me the story of how Grandpa had taught him how to plow a straight furrow, as he guided the plow that the horse was pulling. My uncle got behind the plow and urged the horse on, and when he got to the other end of the long field, turned around and looked back to examine his furrow. It went this way and that way and this way and that way. When he got back to the other end of the field, in the place where he had started, Grandpa, who had observed all of this, directed my uncle’s gaze to a particular tree at the other end of the field. He said, “Don’t take your eyes off that tree, and your furrow will be straight.” Then Grandpa said, “It’s like the verse in the Bible: ‘. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.’” A farmer who was also a theologian!

For my uncle, the result of Grandpa’s teaching was a straight furrow. But it was much more than that. It was a life, “. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” of pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” It was a life steeped in faith and hope and love.

My uncle’s furrow may have been straight, but there is very little, if anything, about the Christian life that is straight. Life throws us many curve balls, and even some fast balls that may knock us over. There was nothing straight about my grandparent’s barn burning down on Christmas. There was nothing straight about my grandfather’s father dying after being gored by his own bull. There was nothing straight about my grandmother’s father dying from blood poisoning after butchering the Christmas beef.

There is very little if anything straight about the Christian life. Indeed, sometimes our Lord may call us to a radically different life in a radically different direction.

Yet in all of this, we look to Jesus, “. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

“. . . forgetting what lies behind . . .” What lies behind can bind us, every bit as much as Lazarus was bound. What lies behind can paralyze us. What lies behind can control us. What lies behind can prevent us from moving ahead to the future into which our Lord calls us. Forgetting what lies behind involves deep forgiveness—both embracing the forgiveness of our Lord and extending that forgiveness to those around us.

“Lazarus, come out!”

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

Two commands of our Lord. The first is to each and every one of us personally, as Jesus inserts our own name: “Lazarus, come out! Come out into the fullness of life I have intended for you.”

The second is to us as a Christian community: “Unbind him, and let him go.” “Unwrap the bonds that bind them. Remove the shroud that enfolds them. Shed light into the darkness that overwhelms them. Loose the chains of oppression that ensnare them. Remove the barriers that bar them. Sever the cords of addiction that grip them. Break the cycle of violence that curses them. Give voice to the fear that silences them.” “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Twelve candles burn on the altar this morning, each representing one beloved of our Lord. Each of them had heard the call and claim of their Lord in their lives. Each had experience a measure of being unbound by the love and faithfulness of this congregation.

And, finally, at the last, according to the sure and certain hope of the resurrection as guaranteed to us through the death and resurrection of our Lord, each of them will hear our Lord cry out with a loud voice:

“Yvonne, come out!”

“Calvin, come out!”

“LaVerne, come out!”

“James, come out!”

“Beverly, come out!”

“Raymond, come out!”

“Earl, come out!”

“Roy, come out!”

“Shirley, come out!”

“Eldon, come out!”

“John, come out!”

“Luann, come out!”

 

Thanks be to God!